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Concateno Newsletter - March 2011

Concateno Newsletter - March 2011

Articles in this month's Concateno Newsletter:

To view other editions click here


Feature drug: cocaine

Find out the key facts about the second most widely used drug of abuse. 


Testing in the workplace – the reality

We look at the issues facing employers who want to introduce a drug and alcohol testing policy into their organisation, including the suggestion of human rights violation.   


Reliability matters

Drug and alcohol testing with Associated British Ports. Read a case study of one leading British organisation’s experience of implementing drug and alcohol testing.


Drugs on wheels

Driving under the influence of drugs is becoming a big issue for road users – we compare notes with different road users.


Up to 90% of Americans come into contact with Cocaine every day. A study presented to the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society reported that cocaine was present in up to 90% of paper money in the United States and was especially high in large cities. Similar statistics could be expected in the UK following an investigation of Thames river water which found that after cocaine had passed through users' bodies and sewage treatment plants, an estimated 2kg (80,000 lines) of the drug went into the river each day.

Source: Science Daily (2009), ‘Up To 90 Percent Of US Paper Money Contains Traces Of Cocaine, Study Finds’ accessed 28th February 2011. The Times (2005) ‘The Thames: awash with cocaine’ accessed 28th February 2011

Concateno’s new Italian lab

Concateno’s Italian office have announced plans for a brand new laboratory based in Pomezia. The lab will be fully equipped to receive biological samples, analyse them and issue results. It will be the first commercial laboratory in Italy that specialises in drug and alcohol testing.

CMA Shipping 2011

21st-23rd March 2011, Connecticut, USA

The Connecticut Maritime Association presents Shipping 2011, North America’s premier international shipping and trade conference. 2,300+ delegates, speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and visitors from 50 countries gather in Stamford, Connecticut for one of the most lauded events in the maritime calendar. It’s billed as a conference ‘that brings the decision makers together’ and the exhibition ‘where business gets done’. Visit Concateno at stand 3 to test your knowledge of alcohol.

16th meeting of Society of Hair Testing (SoHT)
joint symposium with TIAFT

21st-26th March 2011, Chamonix, France

This meeting will offer a unique opportunity to share knowledge and experience with colleagues from around the world, bringing together the expertise of scientists actively working in the various fields of alternative specimens.

Health and Wellbeing:
Improving Productivity Through Employee Wellbeing

31st March 2011, Royal Society, London

This timely and topical forum will examine the key on-going challenges in improving the health and well-being of the population. The annual cost to the UK economy of lost working days now stands at over £100 billion. In 2006 over 175 million working days were missed due to ill health. With the ongoing drive to reduce public spending and increase efficiency, a healthy workforce is more vital than ever. 

This January, Concateno’s laboratories warned of a dramatic drop in heroin positivity rates, which suggested a sudden drop in purity of the street drug. We raised an alert about the possible consequence of the danger of more overdoses if purer forms of heroin come back onto the streets.

Below you can find the reports in national UK news about this potentially fatal trend.

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Name Cocaine
 Properties Cocaine is derived from the coca plant, which grows in mountainous regions of South America such as Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.1 It is a natural product which is extracted from the leaves of the plant, called Erythroxylum coca Lamark and Erythroxylum novogranatense.2 Cocaine comes in two forms; a white powder or small lumps/rocks (crack and freebase).3
 Effects Cocaine is a powerful stimulant with short lived effects.4,5,6 The effects of powder cocaine last 20-30 minutes.7 The effects of crack are more intense and short lived than cocaine.8 The ‘positive’ effects of cocaine include feeling ‘on top of world’, wide-awake, alert, energetic, confident and physically strong.9,10 Negative effects include dry mouth, sweating, anxiety, paranoia, loss of sex drive, rise in temperature, rapid pulse, loss of appetite, tremors, raised breathing rate, raised blood pressure, a runny or stuffy nose and occasionally a bleeding nose, confusion and hallucinations.11,12,13 When used with other substances the effects may be increased.14 After the use of cocaine the 'come down' effects can include feeling depressed, fatigue and flu like symptoms.15,16,17
Risks  The risks of taking cocaine include carelessness due to over confidence, addiction, damage to unborn babies including miscarriage, premature labour, low weight babies and withdrawal symptoms experienced by the newborn. Smoking crack also causes breathing problems and lung damage.18 It has been reported that social and health problems relating to cocaine use have been increasing in Europe.19 In 2009, 300 young people were surveyed by the UK Home Office before and after the FRANK cocaine campaign. 67% of those surveyed agreed that they had underestimated the harm cocaine can cause.20 These risks contributed to the drug's Class A categorisation by the Home Office.21
Usage  Powder cocaine can be snorted or rubbed into the gums, while freebase and crack can be smoked.22,23,24 Since the mid 1990s cocaine use and related problems have increased. Within Europe cocaine is the second most used substance after cannabis and worldwide cocaine is the most problematic drug after opiates (including heroin).25,26 Within the UK cocaine consumption is still growing and the UK has the highest proportion of cocaine users per population in Europe.27 A report on the European Union found that within Europe 13 million adults had used cocaine in their lifetime, and that 3 million adults had used cocaine during the last year.28
 Availabiltiy The vast majority of cocaine is produced in the Andean-Amazonian region of South America and now with a significant proportion of global cocaine heading for Europe new trafficking routes have been created across the Atlantic.29 In the UK the number of cocaine powder seizures continue to increase in England and Wales and data from law enforcement agencies indicate that the price of crack cocaine has fallen and the purity of cocaine powder has decreased to 20%.30

1 Cocaine and crack. DrugScope. [online] [Accessed 25 February 2011]
2 European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2010. Cocaine A European Union perspective in the global context. [online]

3 Cocaine. Talk to Frank. [online] [Accessed 25 February 2011]
4 Cocaine. Talk to Frank.
5 Cocaine and crack. DrugScope.
6 Drug Misuse – Facts. NHS Choices Your Health, Your Choices. [online] [Accessed 27 February 2011]
7 Drug Misuse – Facts. NHS Choices Your Health, Your Choices.
8 Drug Misuse – Facts. NHS Choices Your Health, Your Choices.
9 Cocaine. Talk to Frank.
10 Cocaine and crack. DrugScope.
11 Cocaine. Talk to Frank.
12 Cocaine and crack. DrugScope.
13 Cocaine Information – Facts, Signs, and Symptoms. Drug-Aware. [online] [Accessed 27 February 2011]
14 Cocaine. Talk to Frank
15 Cocaine. Talk to Frank.
16 Cocaine and crack. DrugScope.
17 Drug Misuse – Facts. NHS Choices Your Health, Your Choices
18 Cocaine. Talk to Frank
19 European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2010.
20 Davies, C. English, L. Lodwick, A. McVeigh, J. Bellis, M., 2010. United Kingdom Drug Situation 2010. [online] [Accessed 26 February 2011]
21 Drugs and the law. Home Office. [online] [Accessed 27 February 2011]
22 Cocaine. Talk to Frank.
23 Cocaine and crack. DrugScope.
24 Drug Misuse – Facts. NHS Choices Your Health, Your Choices.
25 European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2010.
26 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2010. World Drug Report 2010. [online] [Accessed 26 February 2011]
27 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2010.
28 European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2010.
29 European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2010.
30 Davies, C. English, L. Lodwick, A. McVeigh, J. Bellis, M., 2010. United Kingdom Drug Situation 2010.

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Introducing drug and alcohol testing in the workplace can be a sensitive issue when it comes to the relationship between individuals and the organisations they work for. One common concern was raised in The Guardian, which commented on a recent report from the charity Release regarding an increase in calls about newly enforced drug testing and resulting dismissal.1 Diane Taylor of The Guardian, concluded that employers were bringing in drug testing to ‘avoid making redundancy payouts’. Is this accurate picture of the role drug testing is playing in companies?

Concateno’s Employee Services team has over 16 years’ experience working with companies to implement drug and alcohol policies and they have helped many organisations overcome the stigma and misunderstanding associated with such policies. Graham Sievers, Concateno’s PR Manager recently wrote an article in DATIA Focus, the official publication of the drug and alcohol testing industry association, in response to The Guardian’s claims.2 Sievers pointed out that there’s a common misconception that drug testing breaches the European Convention of Human Rights, specifically Article 8, which is the right to respect one’s personal and family life, i.e. one’s civil liberties.3

Sievers went on to explain that there is more to this statement, as follows: ‘There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.’4

There is clearly a balance to be struck between individuals, the wider concerns of the organisations they work for and society’s expectations. When introducing a drug testing policy, it is important to make the company’s intentions for the policy clear and to ensure that there is transparency for everyone involved. Concateno works with its customers in advising on policies by engaging employee forums and unions to bring together a policy that is understood and accepted by everyone. We aim make sure the benefits of the programme are fully communicated and that staff understand the risks to the company and each other when an individual is under the influence. We provide awareness training and staff handbooks, believing that support and education are the key to a successful policy, which must be underpinned by trust.5

Increasingly, companies are introducing counselling and rehabilitation services to support their staff alongside a testing process. One major UK transport company ensured it was part of their programme to encourage staff with a drug or alcohol problem to come forward, at which point they would be offered counselling and treatment options via their occupational health company. This enabled the organisation to gain acceptance from staff and unions, retain experienced employees and maintain standards of health and safety in the workplace.6

1 Sievers, G., (2010), ‘Workplace Drug Testing in the UK and Europe: A Matter of Substance’ DATIA Focus, Fall 2010 Vol.3 Issue 4
2 Taylor, D., (2009) ‘Rise in use of drug tests to sack staff without redundancy pay’, accessed 28th February 2011
3 Sievers (2010), p.10
4 Human Rights Act 1998, 1998 CHAPTER 42, Article 8, accessed 28th February 2011
5 Sievers (2010), p.10
6 Sievers (2010), p.13

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Drug and alcohol testing with Associated British Ports

Associated British Ports (ABP) is the UK's leading ports Group, covering 21 sites and a number of other transport-related businesses. Together they create the largest UK-wide ports and transport network, capable of handling every conceivable type of cargo, with activities that include rail terminal operations (Hams Hall), dredging (UK Dredging Ltd) and marine consultancy (ABPmer).

In 2004, Ian Cuthbert, Employee Strategy and Project Manager and Brenda Moore, Employee Relations Manager set up the Group’s drug and alcohol testing policy. At the time there were around 2,500 employees. ABP needed a combination of on-site instant testing using a collector network and laboratory analysis facilities. Ian explained: “In the business we are in, the results of tests can have major consequences so we need to be 100% confident that that the result is accurate, defensible and can withstand any challenge.”

As part of a tender exercise in 2004, ABP was looking for a company that offered the legally defensible Drugs and Alcohol testing with a national coverage for employees located across the whole of the UK. Following a rigorous assessment Concateno proved to be the natural choice, especially as it was the only company with a collection network capable of offering such a quick response time – normally within two hours of call out.

ABP buy a number of services from Concateno. It uses the QED alcohol saliva testing kit and the instant oral fluid drug testing kit for pre-employment screening plus the network of Concateno collectors who use the Cozart® DDS® on-site drug testing and the alcometer for ‘Post Incident’ and ‘For Cause’ testing. “The support at Concateno has been excellent” said Brenda. “All the teams we have dealt with have been very responsive and we are very pleased with the service.”

As part of its desire to offer 100% customer satisfaction, Concateno looks to build strong client relationships. This includes providing the opportunity to visit offices, labs, take a tour and talk directly to the experts. Ian says “The opportunity to meet the whole team added that extra level of confidence. We have seen how rigorous their processes are and know how defensible the whole process is. The Concateno team set a benchmark for what is expected of customer service.”
As a result of introducing a drug and alcohol testing policy, ABP have seen improved results. In 2007, random tests were introduced as a deterrent and revealed 7 positives in that first year. By 2010, this had reduced to just one positive, from 179 tests conducted. Furthermore, the ability to test on site meant that the 106 tests conducted in 2010 as a result of an accident or near miss incident, saved approximately 420 man days (compared to the previous method of testing offsite, which took 3-4 days to obtain the results for each test).

Overall, the drug and alcohol testing policy has made ABP a safer place to work, which is an important factor in such high risk industry environments. “They are a trusted and valued partner” said Brenda.

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Views of road users on drug driving policy

Drug driving is a widespread and often hidden menace in the UK. More Than motor insurance company polled drivers and found that 1 in 5 had driven shortly after taking illegal drugs.1 Research by the Transport Research committee (TRL) has found that 17.7% of UK drivers who die in crashes have traces of illegal drugs in their system, a six fold increase from levels in the 1980s.2 A 2005 study carried out in the UK, Norway and the Netherlands estimated that 10.8% of drivers stopped at the roadside for testing were drug users.3

Brake, a leading road safety charity, is calling for the law to be changed so that drivers registering any level of illegal drugs in their blood stream can be found guilty of the offence of driving under the influence of drugs, irrespective of whether their driving was impaired. But do road users want the law to be changed?

More than 9 out of 10 drivers (92%) surveyed by Brake and motor insurer Direct Line in 2009 stated that they would support the introduction of a new anti drug-drive law to enable prosecution of anyone driving on illegal drugs, without the need to prove impairment.4

Last December, the Parliamentary Transport Committee published its review of expert views on drink and drug driving, including evidence from a wide range of organisations.5 Here we’ve compared responses from two key and often opposing road users.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) is the trade and employers association for the road haulage industry, representing some 8,000 companies throughout the UK with around 100,000 HGVs.6 It recommends a zero tolerance approach to alcohol and drug abuse at work by workers in safety-critical roles, including driving.7 The RHA’s response to the Transport Committee’s questions is as follows:

‘We have asked our members about the extent of the drug driving problem in their fleets and found that the vast majority do not test for drugs currently. We found that the majority do not test drivers and at the same time do not think there is a drug use problem. Of members responding, a small proportion do test for drugs currently and having tested think there is no significant problem.’8

However, members of online cycling forum CycleChat provide an alternative view of the threat drugs pose on the road.9

One user said: “Figures seen by the transport select committee show just 168 drug-drivers were prosecuted in Britain in a year. This was despite drugs having been suspected of playing a contributing role in 56 fatal accidents in 2008. The government said it was determined to ensure the police had everything they need to tackle "this menace". By contrast with the UK, in Germany 34,500 people were prosecuted for drug-driving during a similar period.”

Another commented: “I don't think this problem is given enough attention. I have seen people do things on the road that no sane person would ever do. Drugs are surely a part of it.”

This debate with doubtless continue as the Home Office release their specification for a device to be used to test impaired drivers for drugs at the police station. This is a significant step addressing the problems caused by drug driving.

1 More Than (2007), Response to ACPO UK drink and drug driving figures, accessed 14th March 2011 
2 Tunbridge, RJ; Keigan, M; James, FJ, ‘The incidence of drugs and alcohol in road accident fatalities’, TRL report 495, 2001
3 Assum T, Mathijssen MPM, Houwing S, Buttress SC, Sexton B, Tunbridge RJ and Oliver J, ‘The prevalence of
drug driving and relative risk estimations - a study conducted in The Netherlands, Norway and United
Kingdom’, IMMORTAL EU research project, 2005
4 Brake, 2010, ’Fit to drive? Brake and Direct Line Report on Safe Driving Part Two’ accessed 1st March 2011
Semple, J., (2010), ‘Road Haulage Association response to the Transport Select Committee inquiry into the drink and drug driving laws following the North Review of Drink and Drug Driving Law’, accessed 3rd March 2011
7 Semple (2010)
8 Semple (2010)
CycleChat forum, Drug testing for drivers is coming’, started 9th December 2010, accessed 3rd March 2011  

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